Friday, April 29, 2016

Your favorite food places

Publishing news will be a bit late this week due to chores and another chapter of King's Quest coming out.

Case in point, my tea shelf.
In the meantime, let's share some stories of good food. There's a great place in Durham, for example, called CocoaCinnamon. People say their coffee is incredible. Their teas look amazing--but I've never tried them, because the hot chocolate is so delicious.

That's right, the teas look wonderful, but I HAVEN'T TRIED them.

This from a woman with an entire page devoted to tea.

That is how good the hot chocolate is.

What's one food (or beverage) place you love? 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Trellises and plots

Trellises are a pretty part of a lot of gardens. They come in bunches of different sizes and shapes and heights, some simple, some very ornate and with birds or flowers wrought in them.

They provide the framework for plants that vine their way upwards, the bones for a growing green thing.

I find I think of story structures in a similar way. You choose the medium--wood or metal, short story or mystery novel--and plant the seed--morning glory or ivy, plot and hero. Then the trellis provides the basic support of "what's supposed to happen when": it's the pacing appropriate to the story type, the basics that readers expect from all stories in your genre (murder mystery=someone's gotta die, you know!)

Then the story grows. It might be same type of seed as planted by other people, but the plant is unique. It was twists where no other plant twists, it blooms with flowers that belong only to it, it forms patterns and takes paths that no other story takes in exactly the same way.

People do expect structure when they read. Like sentences, knowing the structure helps us determine what the story means. Wordsstructure sentences and no with understandings meanwhile!. (Meanwhile, sentences that have no structure cannot be understood!)

Most books and classes on craft are basically explaining the different types of trellises you can give your story to grown on, and how the trellis will affect the story. That's why it's useful to study craft. Sometimes just a standard trellis is enough for your story, because the story winds itself thoroughly into interesting patterns around a plain structure. On the other hand, sometimes you want a trellis with bird on it in a field of curliques, because the plot will braid more interestingly on a more intricate structure.

Also, trellises are pretty, and one day I want to have several in my garden. And maybe I just wanted an excuse to take a picture of some colorful and interesting ones, and a blog about trellises seemed like as good an excuse as any.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Being a Good Editor Starts at Grammar--But Doesn't End There

If being an editor is you want to pursue, ask yourself: Is your grammar fantastic? If not, you need to fix that. Having fantastic written grammar skills is a job requirement for pretty much all editorial positions. This includes the knowledge of when good grammar shouldn't be used (and why).

Proofing, line editing, and copyediting involve quite a bit of what I call being a "word janitor." You'll sweep up stray verbs and glue on some more appropriate -s; pulls sticky extra apostrophes off the bottoms of plural nouns and lines sentences with needed new commas. You'll keep bins for "Extra capital letters and unwanted lowercases"--which will be switched out as needed; they're always both fully stocked, and they'll rarely go bad before they have a chance to go rotten. Plus the feather dusters will always be full of unclear antecedents that have been swept away, and sentences will need polishing with needed nouns or noun phrases.

Some of us find this fun. Others consider it a tedious hell. If the latter is true, editing is probably not your cuppa.

Then there's the style issues. Can you create and follow a style consistently that doesn't match an established one? There are multiple right ways to handle some things even within standard styles such as CMS. Your job is to always choose the same one. And can you remember what all the characters look like? You'll have to keep notes. Can you identify the writer's voice and style, and not change them, despite changing the sentences? Can you figure out when sentences should be left techincally incorrect to maintain style and voice, and which should be edited to be correctly incorrect?

It's a lot of detail-oriented work. And it's complicated and challenging on the best of days. Plus the genre you work in makes a huge difference--nonfiction versus fiction is an entirely different world. Once again, if this sounds awful, look elsewhere.

Even developmental editors need these skills. And they also need more skills as well, including a thorough knowledge of story structure, effective voice vs ineffective, effective character development, the best ways to vary pacing and when to use each, when cutting backstory or adding more would be better, how to use tone to create mood, how to craft good dialogue, and more... But if you're going to go into the business as any kind of editor, you need to have the grammar down before anything else.

The bright side is that you can learn. It does take time and effort, but if you really want it, you can make it happen.

But if this all sounds good to you, like a fun and interesting puzzle? It might just be worth looking into. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Modern twists on classic tropes

"The lie" trope shows up everywhere. A character pretends to be something she or he isn't, and keeps the act up, often falling in love in the way, only to have it disastrously revealed at the worst moment--and somehow things turn out okay.

Often it's a Prince and Pauper lie, where the protagonist is pretending to be wealthy, elite, amazing. Sometimes there's also a corresponding pretend pauper, who's inevitably learned a life lesson, but usually the focus is on the real pauper pretending to be a prince. Because let's face it, more people relate to the pauper over the prince.

Yes, of course I'm a real princess.
Why do you ask?
Of course, the pauper also ends up with a nice hefty bonus that leaves them no longer worrying about money, but hey, that's just how fiction goes.

In the age of identify theft, Facebook, social media, would a real prince-and-pauper story turn out so well? How much longer will this trope stay current--or will it always be a dream we have, as a society? I think it speaks to something universal, myself, that wish that everything were easy--and the realization that "easy" isn't always what it seems. But maybe the face of it will change.

What twists do you think we'll start seeing in Prince and Pauper tales in the future, as technology changes?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 3/30-4/15/16.

Publishing News

The Supreme Court has delayed the decision on the Google book-scanning case until at least April 15.

Meanwhile, federal court has decided that the Georgia State University's library-scanning project, which aimed to digitize course readings as e-reserves for academic use (protected by a login), is considered fair use in all but 7 of the 48 counts.

Barnes and Noble will be outsourcing some of its Nook functions to Bahwan CyberTek.

Amazon debuts the Kindle Oasis, a new high-end e-reader designed to be light, fast, and ergonomic.

Following the cancellation by author Sherman Alexie, North Carolina booksellers beg authors not to abandon the bookstores because of the passage of the  HB2 "bathroom" bill, and reiterate their stance against the bill (a vile piece of late-night, closed-session, pork-barrelled, fear-mongering legislation that many business owners, including bookstore owners, and private citizens despise and are advocating for the overturning thereof. Why yes, my personal opinion IS showing). Book and author associations including the ABA, the AAP, the ALA, and others also ask authors not to boycott the state's independent booksellers.

Sourcebooks has acquired its book through Wattpad.

Industry Blogs

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives publishing advice. Is it okay to publish a short story you previously published through a magazine on your website? (It depends on your contract with the magazine.) You've already self-published books under a pseudonym; do you need to tell the agent in the query for a book under your real name? (Yes, you need to admit they exist, but you don't have to explicit.) Will an agent still want to sign you if you only plan to write one book? (If it's a good book, you can still get an agent as a one-book writer.) Also, don't limit your description of female characters to their sex appeal and/or hair color.

More from Reid: What to do if you find a mistake AFTER you send the query.

Agent Jessica Faust talks publishing industry. How do you make sure your blurb matches your plot? She also gives advice on effective query writing.

On QueryTracker, writer Jane Lebak talks about when you should contact an agent or editor, either yours or a prospective one. Ash Krafton talks about engineering a fiction series: planning a series from the beginning while leaving each book capable of being a standalone.

Agent Nephele Tempest posts Friday Links for 4/1 and 4/8.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, advise on how to be a gracious guest blogger.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes three posts on contract dealbreakers: post 1, post 2, post 3. (Maybe you're signing contracts right now and maybe not, maybe your dealbreakers are different from hers, but it's definitely worth looking at what you might find yourself faced with if you plan on sighing a publishing contract (indie or traditional) at any point, and what the downsides are to these clauses, even if you're willing to put up with them.)

Rusch also talks about a horrible copyedit she's had--and why it's important to not just take the copyeditor's word for it all the time, and also why you should be careful when doing copyedits yourself not to edit out the writer's voice.

What other publishing news have you encountered in the past two weeks?

Monday, April 11, 2016

More than one pair of eyes

One of the first things you learn as a copyeditor is that no one ever catches their own mistakes. You always, always have someone else check behind you.

Even dragons are blind to their
own mistakes.
Why? Because when you mean to write something one way, every time you read it, your eyes know what you meant to write, and therefore you will only see what you had meant. You can read the same sentence sixty times and never realize you had an extra x in your exxample.

It's not a sign of being less competent, or of being less than careful. That's just how our brains work. And as such, it's just smart to make sure someone else is looking behind you.

So grab a partner and have them read behind you. Trust me. It will make a difference.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Classics get a pass; modern books don't

I'll read things in classical literature that I wouldn't put up with in modern books.

Literary dinosaur: interesting to study,
but nobody wants to meet him today.
The classics don't have the same rules as modern fiction. They're bursting at the seams with wordiness, overburdened by extra pages of details, of backstory, of clauses and superfluous facts. Purple prose is the lay of the land. Every page you find sexism, classism, racism. Teenage girls get tossed off into marriage and poverty is cast as either noble, pastoral beauty or proof of inner worthlessness. It's, well, horrible.

And yet we still read classical literature. We even still find it beautiful, and admire the language.

The stories get a bit of a pass for being set in a different era. Every word we take with a grain of salt, because we recognize the classics are old.

Modern literature isn't. Modern literature doesn't get a pass to be overburdened with excessive backstory or giant blocks of text, just like it doesn't get to use dated social norms.

But we're trained in schools on older literature, and as such, while today's writers don't weigh down stories with dated social norms, new writers do often try to weigh down their works with dated writing styles.

It's important to read modern writing if you plan to write. Even genre classics have become dated, because just like any other field, writing is evolving. Readers who want classical writing styles can find that in the classics; but if you want readers to enjoy your stories of today, you need to write in today's techniques.

That doesn't mean you can't use some techniques learned from classics. Just don't completely model your writing style off them. If you want your books to sell, make sure your writing involves the current techniques, the methods of storytelling and plot development and pacing that today's literature uses. Like any other profession, writing has not stagnated; if your writing stagnates, it'll get left behind like a surgeon doing an open-incision surgery when laparoscopic is available.

Because we might be trained on classical literature as kids, but today's schools also teach modern literature as well. Because readers don't stick just to classic books, but read modern books as well, and readers are always on the look for the newest great book. Even if they're not studying writing styles, they're learning about them by reading, and if they don't know what the difference is, they still see it.

The modern classic doesn't look like the classic-classic. The 2016 fantasy doesn't look like the 1980 fantasy. Read some books published in the last three years, good ones that have been recommended, and learn from them.

In any other job, it'd be called professional development. In writing, it's called "an excuse to go read a new good book" ... and also professional development.

What recently published books do you recommend people read?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Gem and mineral shows

There was a gem and mineral show at the State Fairgrounds this weekend, so of course I and several other possible part-dragons showed up to admire the shinies.

If only.
With stands with $50 stone hummingbirds and stands with $500 pearls and stands with 5-figure ruby and emerald bracelets, it was quite a feast for the eyes (but not the wallet, which stayed near the $5 strings of beads and the geodes, because I was good, or at least not terribly bad). I also ran into the owner of a stand where I'd bought one of my favorite jewelry pieces a couple of years ago, because she recognized my necklace and said, "Oh, that's one of mine!" 

I think of all the pieces, the antique and estate jewelry fascinates me the most. At the show, these pieces were gold and ruby and gemstones, instead of the costume jewelry I usually see at the flea market. Interesting swirls of gold and rubies and diamond flecks, they made me think of things you'd find in treasure chests, of adventures and of stories.

Of course rock collectors and gem collectors and jewelry designers and people looking for interesting things like malachite boxes or gold-rimmed, polished stone bowls all found something worth looking at. I found the perfect clasp for a necklace I've been working on, and I now have my third geode, cut right there at the show, and shining happily on a bookshelf right now. 

Couldn't resist another geode. There's just something about knowing that you'll be the first person to see inside a rock that took millions of years to form, the first person to witness what unique pattern of crystals and stone has formed inside it. One more thing from the gem show that smells like dreams and stories.

Have you ever been to a gem and mineral show? What did you find that you loved the most?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Publishing News

Publishing news and industry blogs will just be publishing news, as I've missed a few publishing news posts and there on limits both on what I can type and you can read. This week I'll just be focusing on the major news from February 19-March 30.

Amazon's Giveaway, which allows sellers to run promo giveaways, now supports ebooks.

The Apple price-fixing case appeal, a bid to have the Supreme Court review the case, has been rejected. The previous rulings stand, and therefore Judge Denise Cote's ruling is once and for all final. Apple will refund $400 million to consumers and pay another $50 million in legal costs.

The Association of American Publishers continues prioritizing protecting intellectual property in its statement of agenda for 2016, continuing the efforts put forth in 2015. It also pushes for increasing diversity in the publishing business.

Barnes & Noble cuts the Nook app, redesigns its website, and makes various other overhauls. B&N is also testing a new prototype brick and mortar store that emphasizes online purchasing.

The Google book-scanning case (first filed in 2005!) is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, with the case set to begin review April 1. This case is expected to address how the Copyright Act applies in the digital age, especially the "Fair use" doctrine as it's applied in the digital age.

A novel written by an artificial intelligence has made it through the first round of judging in Japan's Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award.

Kindles older than 2012 will need an update to keep working (as of March 22).

Publishers Weekly looks at the results of its survey on diversity in the publishing industry and analyzes what steps will be needed to taken, difficulties faced in taking those steps, how the inequality came to exist, how the industry compares to other industries, and more.

PW also looks at what the final conclusion of the Apple price-fixing case means for publishers and consumers, now that Apple's bid to have the Supreme Court review the case has been rejected.

Samhain Publishing, a digital romance publisher, will be shutting down its publishing operations. Authors whose titles are ready will continue to be published on schedule, while those not yet completed will have the rights reverted to authors; the company plans to eventually revert all rights back to authors, but it will not happen immediately or all at once. The company is still solvent, and this slow return schedule is planned to help it stay that way (and therefore avoid the woes of publisher bankruptcy).

Scribd has changed its business model, and has added 6000 new titles to its subscription service.

In the UK, 22% of the books sold in 2015 were self-published, according to Nielsen Books & Consumers UK survey.

Writer Beware offers a small host of new warnings: Bookfuel, a subscription-based self-publishing service with high fees, a publisher called Encircle mysteriously gets hold of Five Star's now-defunct line's mystery writer e-mails, and Book Excellence Awards has all the markers of an awards profiteer (all addressed in this post).

Also on Writer Beware, A&M publishing makes the pay to play list, now with a new webpage that does not mention its substantial fees. Indie publisher Morgan James Publishing also requires an abnormally high investment to publish with them, this time in the form of requiring authors to purchase a large number of their own books.

Victoria Strauss also acknowledges a lawsuit from Publish America about her coverage on the class action lawsuit against PublishAmerica and the company's change of name to America Star Books, which has reached a settlement in which the company will release all claims against Strauss and the other parties associated with Writer Beware.

What other major industry news has occurred in the last month and half?